Mood In Literature (Examples & Functions)

Definition of Mood

In literature, mood is referred to the type of feeling or the emotion that a writer sets for his reader. It is an element of a story, based on the particular emotion, which is evoked in the reader.

The tone and mood are two related literary devices. The difference between them is that, the tone indicates the attitude of the author towards the subject, whereas the mood reflects that how the reader feels when he is reading the subject.

Mood is created with the help of elements, such as setting, language, dialogue and the plot. The mood of a story is happy and light or it can be dark and scary. It changes as the story progresses. The understanding of mood is important, because it helps to appreciate the deep meanings and emotions in a literary work.

Function of Mood

Mood serves numerous functions in the literature. It makes the readers capable of feeling for the characters and what they are going through by enabling the emotional touch of empathy.

Mood contributes to the development of the story’s themes, shapes the readers’ anticipation and expectations, and creates its own story.

Mood also provides a counterpoint and enhances noticeable events in the story. Thus, the mood determines the tone of the readers and makes the story more remarkable to them.

Mood Examples in Literature


“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”

The author uses the imagery to foster an all-encompassing obsession when describing the eye of the old man as ‘vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it’.

It gives rise to what may be described as a cold sweat or horror.

This is complemented by the words of the narrator that the idea has become so upsetting that it engulfs his thoughts during the day and at night.

It brings out the creation of a perpetual and seemingly hopeless environment.

The mood is instrumental in increasing the level of stakes in the story. It captures the readers into the eerie perceptions of the telling of the story.


“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On weekends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city, between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.”

Fitzgerald creates a mood of wealth and careless profusion.

The descriptions of grand parties, with guests coming and going “like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars”, provides a sense of magic and grandeur.

The striking images of the beach, motor-boats and Rolls-Royce add the feeling of extreme luxury and indulgence.

The mood shows the superficial and temporary nature of the character’s pursuits. It highlights the themes of excess and the hollowness of the American Dream.


“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

“Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.”

Here, the mood is hopeless and harsh, which has been created by the description of the environment.

The “pure, bracing ventilation” and the “power of the north wind” indicate a cold and stern setting. The “stunted firs” and “gaunt thorns” leaning as if “craving alms of the sun” paint a picture of a barren and deserted landscape.

The mood increases the sense of the reader’s sense of the setting as a tough and unwelcoming place. It shows the inner disorder and struggles of the characters.


“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

The use of mood indicates the contrast and confusion.

The phrases “the best of times” and “the worst of times” and “the age of wisdom” and “the age of foolishness” indicate a blend of good and bad.

It creates a sense of unpredictability and complication. The mood sets the stage for a story possessed by hope and despair. It reflects the clamorous times, wherein the characters live.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft tea cakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

The author forms a mood of stagnation and tenderness.

The writer further describes Maycomb as a “tired old town”, which sets a slow and tired tone. The use of imagery i.e. “red slop” streets, “sagged” courthouse, and “sweltering shade” elicits a sense of weariness and repressive heat.

The mood indicates the motionless and tyrannical social environment of the town. It also paves the way to explore the racial tensions and moral issues that are essential to the novel.


“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

“The water rose farther and dressed Simon’s coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble.”

The passage creates a calm and scary mood.

The water makes the hair of Simon to gleam and the finish on his face resembles a work of art where features seem sculpted like marble, and the mood appears almost serene.

However, this is only a manipulation because in this perfect world Simon is not around anymore; there is a sort of hysteria in this quietude.

This mood gives the depressing feel to the moment because of the ambience of the scene, and it intensifies the violent death of Simon making it more poignant.


“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

The passage creates a light-hearted and humorous mood.

The statement is playful and ironic, which makes a fun at society’s assumption that wealthy single men are always looking for wives.

The tone paves the way for the social satire and romantic comedy in the story.


“Harry Potter” Series by J.K. Rowling

“An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest: the cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart…”

The passage creates a sense of tense and chilling.

The intense cold that Harry feels creates a sense of fear and tenderness. It suggests that something wrong and dangerous is happening.

The mood helps to build suspense and makes the reader feel the same fear that Harry is feeling.

See also: Thank You Ma’am Literary Devices

Related Literary Devices

1- Imagery

It includes the use of descriptive language. Imagery appeals to the senses.

It creates a impressive picture in the minds of the reader. The writer by describing sights, sounds, smells and tastes establishes a specific mood.

For example, dark and gloomy imagery creates a mood of fear and sadness, whereas the bright and colorful imagery establishes a mood of happiness and excitement.

2- Setting

It refers to the time and place, wherein the story occurs.

The details of the setting, environment, weather and social conditions influence the mood.

For example, a haunted house on a stormy night creates a mood of suspense and horror, whereas a sunny beach creates a mood of relaxation and happiness.

Mood In Literature Examples
Mood In Literature Examples

Mood is a concept in the literature whereby an author employs a certain type of feeling to influence the emotions that are felt by the reader.

In other words, through setting, language, and dialogues, the authors are able to generate environment that adds depth to the textual and values-based aspects of a narrative piece.

Developing awareness of the work’s mood enables the readers to recognize how this sentiment is created and will therefore be capable of analyzing it.

It heightens the appreciation and understanding of a text, thus should not be deemed inconsequential but rather as a core component that determines reception and interpretation of a work.

More to read: Literary Devices That Start With M

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